Last week, Congress took action to remove a bad federal evaluation system for teacher preparation programs. Unfortunately, every teacher education program in Kansas will still have to train teachers to teach-to-the-test to meet accreditation.
During its last days, the Obama administration issued new regulations requiring teacher education programs to be evaluated based on the ability of their new K–12 teachers to raise scores on standardized tests. Using the Congressional Review Act, these regulations were overturned. Republicans argued that Obama’s Department of Education had overstepped the bounds of executive authority and that control of education needed to return to the states.
Teachers also opposed being evaluated based on their students’ scores on state assessments. Many teacher colleges and state departments of education considered the new rules wrong and expensive. Tracking would add additional costs. And it is difficult to attach students’ scores with the institution where they were educated now that more students are taking courses at several institutions.
And a student’s performance on assessments is more closely related to their home environment and socioeconomic level. Simply, I can send a mediocre student teacher to an affluent school and the student test scores will be fairly high regardless of the teacher’s skill. But I can send my best student teacher to inner city or poverty-area schools and, based on student scores, that excellent teacher and our teacher education program would be judged as failing.
If this new federal “standard” remained, teacher ed programs across the country would game the system; they would begin placing all of their student teachers in affluent schools. With about 60 percent of teachers taking their first position in or near the school where they student taught, that would mean high scores for the university program. But they would never send a student teacher to an impoverished school and risk getting low student assessment scores.
While Congress killed the federal judge-teacher-by-student-test-scores provision, this system lingers on as the centerpiece of the major teacher accreditor in Kansas, the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Preparation (CAEP, pronounced “cape”). Formerly called the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), this organization has always wanted to become the gatekeeper of teacher preparation, a closed “union shop”—where only schools that were CAEP-accredited could train American teachers.
CAEP is now judging teacher ed programs based on the very criteria that Congress just killed. CAEP released its evaluations of 21 teacher ed programs nationwide, and some did not meet this criteria requiring linking their former student teachers with “outcome data”—the academic achievement of students that were taught by each program's teachers.
Kansas superintendents know that the teacher programs at various Kansas universities vary in quality, but they all passed the prior NCATE accreditation. They now face being judged on student assessment scores. So Kansas teacher prep programs will now be doubling down on training student teachers to teach-to-the-test when they enter the classroom, because that is what this destructive CAEP accreditation requires.
This is ironic because the new direction being taken by the Kansas State Board of Education and Kansas Education Commissioner is away from just teaching-to-the-academic-tests and teaching the whole student in engagement, honesty, perseverance, work and study ethic, etc. That is now completely at odds with the accreditation that Kansas teacher programs will continue to follow.
Kansas, like most other states, does not require that teacher education programs be CAEP-accredited. It is time for the Kansas State Board of Education to follow the actions taken last week by Congress, and discourage and even penalize any Kansas program that doubles down on teaching-to-the-test.
Kansas doesn’t need the unnecessary and irrelevant accreditation that CAEP pushes.